Paddy Kenny remembers David Seaman's "freak of a save" in Sheffield United's FA Cup semi against Arsenal, on this day in 2003

Paddy Kenny was still thinking about Sheffield United’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal a few days earlier when he pulled into the Bramall Lane car park and received a phone call from an unknown number.

By Danny Hall
Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 2:27 pm

“Hey Paddy, it’s Dave Seaman,” said the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Yeah, good one,” Kenny laughed, and hung up.

The caller, it turned out, was the former England goalkeeper, and not one of Kenny’s pals on a wind-up. He called back and apologised, and Seaman took it in good spirits. He had a favour to ask of Kenny.

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A few days earlier, the semi-final at Old Trafford – on this day in 2003 – had become famous not for Freddie Ljungberg’s winning goal, or referee Graham Poll’s bodycheck of Michael Tonge in the build-up to it, but Seaman’s remarkable save to keep United at bay.

There were only six minutes left on the clock when United forced a corner, which Rob Page headed back into the Arsenal box when the ball was cleared. Carl Asaba helped it on and Paul Peschisolido appeared to have the freedom of Manchester to head the ball home and drag United level.

But the Canadian striker didn’t get the best connection on the ball and it gave Seaman a chance. Somehow, in a save that seemed to defy physics, Seaman arched back to wrap his hand around the ball, before somehow clawing it to safety.

David Seaman of Arsenal makes a spectacular save to keep Paul Peschisolido's header out in the FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United at Old Trafford (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Phil Jagielka blasted the follow-up miles over, and Arsenal went on to win the FA Cup. Seaman was nearly 40 when he made the save, and it was his 1,000th career game.

Afterwards, in the emotion of the day, he gave Kenny his shirt – and was now calling to ask if he could possibly have it back.

“I could hardly say no!” Kenny remembered, in his autobiography The Gloves Are Off.

“But to be fair to him, he promised to send me his other shirt, and a pair of gloves. He signed them both: ‘To Paddy, Safe Hands.’ I’ve got them framed on the wall, as a nice memory. He kept in touch with me, as well.

Paddy Kenny's autobiography was published last October (Vertical Editions)

“At the time, I didn’t appreciate how good the save was - I probably had the worst view in the ground, from the other end of the pitch. But I’ve obviously seen it a million times since, and I don’t think there are enough words to do it justice. It was ridiculous.

“What a time to pull off the best save I have ever seen in my life. He did well enough to even get to the ball, never mind having the strength to claw it back from the line with his fingertips.

“It’s tinged with a bit of regret when I see the save, because if Pesch gets a better contact on the ball he does not give Seaman a chance. But, with Seaman hanging in mid-air and his ponytail flapping all over the place, it was still a freak of a save.”

Paddy Kenny in his Sheffield United days (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)